Driven to Fail: Sam Smith’s podcast about failure, cars, and more
Would you derail your career to help save thousands of people? What is it like when a life at the top simply stops one day and you go back to being ordinary? Or when you achieve on a global stage but still feel like a failure because you haven’t realized a childhood dream?
Everyone loves hearing about the climb to a win. But why are we so reluctant to share our missteps in getting there, or what happens on the way back down?
I’m Sam Smith, one of Hagerty’s editors-at-large. In my 20 years as a journalist, I’ve been a writer, a host, and a producer for places like Road & Track, Esquire, NBC Sports, Wired, and The New York Times. I’ve traveled the world for work, discussing life with famous athletes and entertainers and watching the best and worst of us think under pressure. I’ve visited secret automaker R&D labs and tested Formula 1 cars and Le Mans prototypes on some of the world’s greatest tracks.
All of that has only reinforced two ideas. First, people are nothing if not complex. And second, society is infatuated with the fantasy that success is merely hustle plus time—the notion that absolutely anything is possible if you try hard enough, and that no one any good has ever had a day or month or year so awful, they nearly gave up.
Last fall, I began assembling a project to talk to people in the car world. I wanted to discuss what happens when things go wrong—how we react when life falls apart, and what we learn when we try to put it all back together.
That podcast launches today on the Hagerty Podcast Network. The show is called Driven to Fail. I’m the host.
Cards on the table: Discussions require more than one person. I was admittedly a bit naive about the effort it would take to land those other folks as guests, not least because I tend to be brutally open and honest about my own flaws. How hard could it be, I thought, to find people of note willing to do the same?
This first season holds eight episodes. We had originally scheduled for more, but of the dozens of people I pitched last year, only a handful said yes. Those eight individuals, however, were incredible. Honest and open, intelligent and human. They answered every question I had, no matter how personal.
There was the Ford employee who discovered company plans to turn the Mustang into a front-drive import, then risked his career by working under the table to “save” the model as America knew it. Or the young car photographer who spent years on the industry’s low-buck fringe out of love, only to become so well-known that starstruck fans now track him down at events.
A young Indy driver survived a 228-mph crash, nearly bleeding to death, only to have a ringside seat years later as his childhood best friend, now teammate, became paralyzed in another crash. The award-winning cofounder of The Onion saw a dream career in comedy collapse as that institution crumbled, then built another dream career working for car magazines. There’s more. All remarkable stories from remarkable people.
Driven to Fail isn’t a podcast about cars. It starts there but lives in the spaces we have in common. It is a series of uncensored and honest conversations, with those who have reached the top, about the struggles we hit along the way.
Each episode is roughly an hour. The first launches today, February 14th, and is mirrored in the YouTube video above.
Seven more episodes will follow, a new drop each week.
Our first guest is Jason Vines. He was a vice president at Ford during the 1990s Firestone scandal, when hundreds of people died in crashes following tire failures on Ford Explorers. Vines helped make decisions that saved lives, and some of those decisions got him fired. The pressure and stress pushed his family so far, his young daughter began crying every time the phone rang.
Driven to Fail can be downloaded or streamed wherever you get your podcasts. If faces are more your thing, video of each episode will live on the Driven to Fail YouTube channel.
For years, many of you have emailed me and sent direct messages on social media. About my writing on this site, but also my videos for Hagerty’s YouTube channel and my feature stories for the 700,000-subscriber Hagerty Drivers Club magazine.
I read every message and do my best to answer each one, and they mean a lot. But now, I’d like to ask a favor.
If you give Driven to Fail a shot and like it, please tell your friends. Even better, share a link or a leave a positive review. A warm response would help make a second season happen, so hearing from you matters. And while we all have busy lives, if you a have a minute, I’d love your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for reading. Making things around here is a privilege, and we get to do it because you keep coming back. I can’t wait to hear what you think.